Car Time – January 2019


The Driver Is the Key: Advice for When You Have a Young Driver in the Family

    It is common for families to own or acquire a spare vehicle for the new driver of the household to drive. Sometimes the new driver will be able to buy a vehicle or acquire one from a relative or neighbor. Of course, the parental units often take on any financial burden that may arise. As a father of two adult kids, I can say that it was very handy having my kids driving themselves to their activities in this modern busy family world.
    So now in your case, your family’s new drivers have a vehicle, and you will handle the cost of maintenance and repairs. What about tracking the needs of the car? Who pays attention to when maintenance is required or when a warning light stays on that won’t go away?
    It is normally what I call the driver/owner, but in this case, we will call it the driver/operator. Young individuals should learn to take responsibility for vehicles even if they do not own them. They are lucky enough to have a car to drive and probably are not paying for insurance or gas for that matter. They need to take the time to learn about the vehicle. When is the next oil change due? When is the next major service required? What is a TPMS light? It is always good to understand these fundamental things anyway, but new drivers should learn the responsibility that will last a lifetime.
    It is never too early to learn to be a good consumer of auto repair. Encourage new drivers to be involved when you take the car in for repairs or maintenance. They need to understand that cars need to be checked out even when it seems to be operating fine. Silent failures are often just around the corner. They surely need to learn how to pay attention to the vehicle when driving. Are there warning lights present? Which ones? All dash warning lights are described in the owner’s manual. Does the car make noises? Does it have unusual odors?
    As drivers/operators, youngsters need to pay attention to these considerations. If they report a problem, you should take care of it, as that is better than waiting until a breakdown. The whole point of maintaining a car is to stay away from breakdowns. Unexpected car problems upset our schedule and cause chaos. Paying attention to car maintenance and understanding when something is not right will help avoid being towed.
    Operation and maintenance is only part of the learning requirement for young drivers. What do they do if the vehicle does break down? Do you have a family breakdown plan? Does your young driver know how to use an insurance card? These are all things teenagers need to learn before they are actual grown- ups taking responsibility for their own family’s vehicles. We want to raise good kids that are good citizens and know how to maintain a car.
    By the way, if you are going to buy them a used vehicle, please have it checked out first and get advice before the purchase. Also, don’t forget to be a good consumer of auto repair yourself. I am always available for automotive consultation.
    John Vanek can be reached at

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